Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

September 18, 1998

ARE OREGON GOVERNOR John Kitzhaber's Department of State Police and his Department of Administrative Services trying to bust the union of state troopers? It appears that the two departments, which answer to the Democratic governor, are attempting to get rid of the Oregon State Police Officers Association (OSPOA) by discouraging troopers from serving as their union's president.

One way this is being done is to penalize the union's president by wrecking his state pension.

State Police brass told OSPOA President Jim Botwinis that he will lose coverage by the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) during the time he's the union's president. Botwinis has been president more than six years. Kitzhaber's Administration also has advised the union's former president, Senior Trooper Steve Beck, who's eligible for retirement in 13 months, that he won't be eligible for PERS pension credit for the more than six years he served as OSPOA's first president.

THE KITZHABER ADMINISTRATION'S Departments of State Police and Administrative Services are further trying to penalize the union's president by decreeing that the trooper who holds that office be placed on an unpaid leave status while serving the union. The OSPOA says this violates the collective bargaining agreement between the trooper's union and the State of Oregon. The contract states that the Department of State Police agrees to assign the OSPOA president to the OSPOA office and that the president shall remain a full employee of the department. Under the contractual arrangement the union reimburses the state for the president's salary and benefits. This arrangement is similar to the practice followed with public safety unions in other jurisdictions in Oregon and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, OSPOA members have voted their opinions on the current administration of the Department of State Police in balloting conducted by the union. In holding a referendum on what troopers think of their department's brass, union leaders mentioned "a variety of grievances, including unfair scheduling and compensation, inequitable disciplinary tactics and wasteful spending," according to the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem. Another issue concerns the department's elimination of allowing troopers the option of accumulating compensatory time off for overtime worked.

Without waiting for the vote or bothering to ask troopers about their concerns, the Democratic governor quickly expressed his confidence in State Police administrators in a letter made public before troopers had sent in their ballots.

Results of the referendum on whether troopers have confidence in the brass were announced after the deadline for this edition.

DEMOCRAT KITZHABER'S vote of confidence in the State Police leadership was seconded by the Republican-controlled Oregon Senate's majority leader, Gene Derfler of Salem. Republican Derfler has often been critical of the Democratic governor for vetoing bad legislation passed by the Legislature's Republican majority. Derfler also has criticized outstanding nominees by Kitzhaber to state boards and commissions and blocked or tried to block Senate confirmation of them. When Kitzhaber finds Derfler agreeing with him, the governor ought to wonder if he's done the right thing.

The OSPOA, the union of the state's cops, is an independent union, unaffiliated with the AFL-CIO. There are several AFL-CIO-affiliated unions that represent law enforcement officers. Perhaps the OSPOA should consider joining one of them so that it would have the doubled clout of a larger union and the AFL-CIO in its negotiations.

***

THAT OREGON STEEL operation in Pueblo, Colo., which is operating with strikebreakers, contains a connection to the infamous Ludlow Massacre.

Oregon Steel Mills, Inc., of Portland owns the Colorado mill which was struck last Oct. 3. Members of the Steelworkers Union made an unconditional offer to return to work last Dec. 30 but management refused the offer and continues to produce steel with scabs.

Oregon Steel, which busted Portland Steelworkers Local 3010 some 15 years ago, calls its Pueblo plant Rocky Mountain Steel. But when Oregon Steel bought the mill it was named CF&I Steel. CF&I was Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, which originally was a property of the original John D. Rockefeller early in this century.

Rockefeller, the first tycoon of the energy age, established the Standard Oil network of companies. "Rockefeller controlled the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corp., whose coal miners went on strike in 1914," said an account of him published by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The article went on to say:

"WITH THEIR FAMILIES, they (the miners) were promptly evicted from company-owned homes in Ludlow, Colo. They moved into a cluster of tents around which National Guard soldiers (known as the Colorado Militia) took positions and at night occasionally fired their rifles into the colony. To protect the children, the miners dug a cave under the largest tent. But on Easter Sunday night 1914, company-hired gunmen and some of the National Guard poured oil over the strikers' tents and set them on fire.

"As the frantic miners and their families ran for safety in the night, they were machine-gunned. Some escaped, some were wounded and 13 children and a pregnant woman in the recently-dug cave died — some with gun wounds, some from suffocation." (Another labor-published account of the Ludlow Massacre said that more than 30 members of miners' families were murdered by the Rockefeller's CF&I thugs.)

The AFL-CIO history of Ludlow continued: "THE NATIONWIDE PROTEST against the killings on Rockefeller property was immediate and long sustained. Eventually, it led Rockefeller, the nation's first billionaire, to hire Ivy Lee, an early public relations man, to repair John D.'s sullied reputation. "Even as an old man, Rockefeller continued to hand out shiny dimes to little children in the effort to erase the Ludlow image — but among miners and workers in many other unions, the memory of Ludlow persists like an endless bad dream."

CF&I Steel of Pueblo, Oregon Steel Mills Inc. of Portland and Wells Fargo Bank of San Francisco, which has more than 1,700 branches in 10 Western states, have all been placed on the national AFL-CIO's Boycott List. Wells Fargo was included because it is the lead bank in a consortium that provides financing for Oregon Steel.

Besides plants in Pueblo and Portland, Oregon Steel operates mills in Napa, Calif., and in Camrose in Canada's Alberta Province, the AFL-CIO said. The labor federation noted that Oregon Steel’s products include railroad rails, seamless pipe, steel plate for railroad cars, ships and other heavy equipment, and large welded pipe for oil and gas pipelines.

ISSUES IN THE Steelworkers' dispute with Oregon Steel include forced overtime, job assignments, contracting out, wages, plus pension and health care benefits.

The AFL-CIO pointed out that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has put forth a complaint against CF&I Steel charging it with more than 100 illegal labor practices. The NLRB also found that the Pueblo walkout was a strike against the company's unfair labor practices. If upheld, the finding entitles the strikers to return to their jobs with full back pay from Dec. 30, 1997.

-END-

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